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Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers: Counties need ‘more flexibility’ to reopen during coronavirus response

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) poses for a photo in her office on Jan. 16, on Capitol Hill, in Washington D.C. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Counties need to be given the flexibility to open their economies safely and more needs to be done to assist farmers in the next round of Congressional assistance, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said Tuesday.

“Our health care leaders are working to figure out right now, what can we do? What can we do safely?” McMorris Rodgers said during a Virtual Northwest Passages Forum that can be seen in its entirety at “I just hope that the governor will provide more flexibility for the counties in Eastern Washington.”

McMorris Rodgers said she’d appealed to Gov. Jay Inslee for expedited reopening in areas of Eastern Washington that she said hadn’t seen the “surge” of demand for hospital beds seen elsewhere in the state. Her position is shared by Mayor Nadine Woodward, who’s made similar entreaties to Inslee in recent days.

The congresswoman acknowledged that the nation’s response to the novel coronavirus had been hampered by lack of testing, and said the pandemic had shown her and other lawmakers that America needed to be doing more to manufacture necessary supplies within the country.

“I think everyone has been shocked to learn about the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of our supply chain, and especially our dependence on China,” McMorris Rodgers said.

She reiterated her support for the suspension of funding to the World Health Organization instituted by President Donald Trump, who along with other Republicans has been critical of the international public health arm of the United Nations and early reports about the virus that they say were too deferential to China.

Several questions need to be answered, McMorris Rodgers said.

“What happened in China, and why was there such a delay? Why was there false information early on about the coronavirus and how it was transmitted?” she said.

The president announced the suspension of aid shortly after The New York Times and Washington Post reported that there were alarms raised within the Trump administration about the virus, but that little action was taken beyond a travel ban with China. Critics, among them Democratic lawmakers, have said the action was taken to shift blame for those actions.

McMorris Rodgers noted that Congress has approved four packages of assistance for the coronavirus response. She said that the response had been “state-managed, locally implemented and federally supported,” and that her recent focus had been on legislation intended to assist farmers in finding customers for their crops.

The congresswoman also said she’d support a change to federal legislation that would allow U.S. citizens married to, or children of, immigrants without Social Security numbers to receive their stimulus checks from the federal government.

“I think it’s a loophole that I would be in favor of correcting to make sure that those that were intended to receive that support would get it,” she said.

The congresswoman also said she’d been spending time investigating learning apps for her family’s three school-age children, and that they’d recently download the Disney Plus app to watch the animated classics, most recently the 2010 adaptation of the Rapunzel fairy tale, “Tangled.”

“That was our movie night, on Friday night,” McMorris Rodgers said.

The Virtual Northwest Passages Forum continues Wednesday with a conversation between former Gov. Christine Gregoire and Jim Camden at 4 p.m.

Reporter Kip Hill interviewed Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers for the Virtual Northwest Passages Forum on Tuesday.